Apps are not yet ready for prime time

By Christian Buckley posted 02-14-2014 16:12


I don’t believe “the age of the mobile app” is here. People are not clamouring to replace enterprise systems with complex smart phone utilities. Not yet, anyway. I believe the “rich app” world will remain in place for quite some time. However, strategic use of the cloud – and cloud-based apps in conjunction with on-premise solutions – will be our next big shift. Yes, yes. Going out on a limb, here.

For one, enterprises have far too much invested in on-premise and dedicated (privately hosted) solutions to move to the completely new paradigm of mobile. Second, while current cloud offerings may offer cost efficiencies in hardware, its happening at a time where on-premise costs are dropping anyway. With storage costs dropping through the floor, and the rise of virtualization, its just not the same issue that it was 10 years ago. Couple that with (an assumed) lack of control, compliance, and governance through mobile platforms, concerns over security, and – most importantly – the inability to accomplish through mobile apps what can only be accomplished through rich applications (and most of those on-premise), you can bet that enterprises will stick with what works for some time.

Just to be clear – don’t confuse “cloud” with “app.” Cloud-based solutions are here now, and are already enterprise-class. As an end user, I should be able to access the tools I need in a browser (or internet-enabled UI). I don’t care if the site or tool (SharePoint, for example) is hosted in Redmond Washington, with SQL Server being hosted in Ireland data centers, blob storage at a location in Mountain View California, with BCS connections to a data warehouse in Ahmedabad India. It doesn’t matter to me.

And just over the horizon is the true “dawn of the app” – focused, targeted tools for mobile and touch screen devices that allow users to do very powerful, specific activities without going through bloated applications, even those rich apps currently hanging around in the cloud today. The opportunity for apps is in their simplicity, solving targeted problems – versus rich apps that have a wide variety of features and solve for multiple business problems. Instead of these new apps being aggregated by clearinghouse sites or catalogued on iTunes, and instead of them just becoming bigger and bloated like their rich app cousins, they will become complex and componentized. Apps will be linked together by relevance, and “findable” by other apps, making it easier for them to work together.

The limitations of current apps (think iPhone and Android-based) is that they are largely standalone, working independently of each other. Possibly through expansion of the cross-platform Application Markup Language (AML) for mobile platforms, communication between these tools will be improved, allowing data and resource sharing, and unlocking the true potential  of mobile. Once this begins to happen, and a string of these fast, lightweight applications can duplicate (or improve on) the enterprise application capability, we will experience the next phase of the internet experience – and mobile will reign supreme.

It’s just not going to happen right away. 

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